It’s a good deal more frantic and there are more people milling about than when I last visited the set of Starz‘s Boss. Mario Van Peebles is in the director’s chair, and neither Kelsey Grammer nor Troy Garity are anywhere to be seen. The focus of the scene being shot at the moment is Sanaa Lathan, as she does take after take of showing disgust at some as-yet-unknown plot turn playing out on a phantom television, turning around and exiting in search of a drink.
Lathan is a newcomer to the acclaimed series this season, playing Mona Fredericks, a woman whom the network’s early press release for Season 2 initially described as Chicago Mayor Tom Kane’s (Grammer) new “obsession.” But as we sit and discuss in between takes as they shoot Episode 6 of the new run, Lathan is vocally cautious of the term with regard to the role she’s playing. “Mona is a very passionate woman who winds up working for Kane,” she explains. “She has a passion for a particular project that they’re working on. And in the midst of that, Kane kind of develops a certain … I don’t know. They’re calling it obsession — I try not to label what it is — but he takes an interest in her other than her professional abilities. … I’m sure a lot of it has to maybe be tied into his disease,” she hints.
According to Lathan, Mona is a bit of a babe in the woods with regard to the attention she’s being offered — certainly, from her character’s perspective, she’s not looking for anything on the side. “She is married, she does have kids,” Lathan informs. “And she is faithful to her husband … although I haven’t read the later scenes, so I’m pretty sure that she’s going to stay faithful.”
Well, that’s what she says as we’re discussing the situation, anyway. I can’t say for sure, but it sounds like we’re being deliberately thrown off the scent of a potentially salacious plotline — something that’s not in short supply on the series, as Boss fans will know. But for now, all Lathan will cop to is that Kane is at the very least infatuated with Mona, and that Mona thinks it’s civic responsibility and servitude that Kane has on his mind. “I think there’s an innocence about her in that she really thinks that he is supporting her in her cause,” she says. “She’s very passionate about what she does. She knows her stuff — she is fighting for this community center, these projects called Lennox Gardens, which are kind of a parallel to [troubled Chicago public housing project] Cabrini-Green. What she doesn’t want to happen is for them just to redevelop it, and then all of those people are just kind of left homeless, and left without any kind of support.”
Chicago’s real-life tribulations are well known to any of the cast of this series, particularly since principal photography for the entire season requires that most of the cast and crew hang around the city for the entire four-month run it takes to film. On the day I talked with Lathan, the NATO conference was in town and NATO protesters had challenged the city’s traffic flow as a whole. But Lathan loves the town, anyway — with one major qualification.
“I love [Chicago],” she gushes. “I did Contagion here two years ago. And then I also used to date a guy here, like four years ago, and I used to come here a lot. And I experienced that Chicago winter, so I was very grateful that this did not take me here [in the wintertime]. Because I can’t handle it. But other than that, I’m loving it.”
Of course, politics and show business are only a couple of the threads to follow in a town of Chicago’s size, diversity and culture. And in their downtime, Lathan and the other members of the Boss cast have made the most of what the city has to offer, even taking time to give back while they’re here. “This weekend me and Kathleen [Robertson] went to the Starlight Children’s Foundation dinner gala,” Lathan says. “That was really nice, because that’s for a good cause, and we got to support all of these children. Then we went out with a bunch of people to a restaurant called Sunda, which I really love — I’ve been there a couple of times. Then we went dancing, and who would have thought? We went to this place called The Underground, and we literally danced until — like we were rock stars. I haven’t danced like that in years. It was really fun.”
And the fun will continue for the rest of us when Lathan, Grammer and Garity all take the stage for Season 2 of this incredibly volatile series.
“Boss,” Season 2 debuts on Starz Friday, Aug. 17 at 10pm ET/PT
Photo: © MMXII Lions Gate Television Inc. Credit: Chuck Hodes